Here is the 51st poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
Autumn is my season, that long yellow light
suffusing moods with melancholy
the crinkled leaves imparting their essence
as through perforated cotton, imprinted
with the fragrance of smoke, fog, decaying fruit
the sense of the approaching darkness
and the chill that kisses as it bites
solstice fire glimmering in dark tired eyes
luring us on as if a year’s end
could really mean a new beginning.
Autumn is my season, always was and will be
even as an adolescent my friends and enemies alike
remarked upon it: Thompson, the old man
before his time, weighed down by worldly woes
he’d scarcely tasted then, but now of which
he has the very savour. Do me a favour
stop calling me a pessimist, you who should know better
yet misses the point, -who talks of reincarnation
and salvation, redemption, earthly and divine.
Sadness is just a season and my life only one
of many peeling off like pages of Earth’s book.
Death to me is Winter, Christmas, celebration
and Summer all the lives I’ve been before I’d say
and Spring the many, whispering, still on the way.
Autumn is my season, for the way it lacks
the denial of Summer and the amnesia of Spring
-is honest about what it knows is coming and chooses it
breaking into fanfares of copper trumpets, baroque
archaic, jazzy brass elegy of dry lament
and juicy squeal and whine. Death do your worst
let us taste of life until it fills us fit to burst
and consent to leave it if we have truly lived it first.
The leaves change colour, then sail and fly as they fall
exultant if they have an opinion at all, but do not cry
yellow not for cowardice but for gold’s first light
pressing blighted love’s sweet windfall into wine
shedding fruit, resplendent, fulsome, incarnadine
I pluck this season and make it mine.
Well, I can’t believe that we have reached the second-last poem of the year already, and therefore that this strange experiment is nearly over. During this time, I have looked back over my ordinary little life with the world looking over my shoulder and tried to make sense of it all, finally arriving at the present and the answer perhaps to the oddly elusive question of who Douglas Thompson actually is. I thought I knew when 2013 started, or I wouldn’t have had the confidence to reveal myself in this way. But even as I agreed with my publisher Dog Horn to undertake this exercise, I remember hearing a little voice whisper in my head to be careful, because in the process of looking at my life so intently I might inavertently change it forever. I nearly thought I’d got away with it, but now at last as the year closes I see that that voice was right and that maybe I should have heeded it. It’s all very much like that miraculous and mysterious experiment in particle physics known as “Schrödinger’s cat ”…. Whereby the outcome of the interaction of two electrons will change (by travelling back in time, no kidding!) depending on whether the experiment was observed by a human being or not. Nobody yet fully understands what this anomaly means, although I personally suspect it hints at the fundamental (rather than accidental) role that life plays in the grand progress of the universe itself. But I digress. 2013 is nearly dead, and in a sense the man that I was is dying too, and a new version will arrive with 2014. We all have to die, but we don’t have to do it while still alive. The answer to that, paradoxically, is to make yourself die all the time. By which I mean change, evolve constantly, never stagnate, remain eternally open to every new influence in your life. And that, I think, is what the poem above is really about. Life is change. Embrace it. Grow with it.
As last week, our accompanying artwork are photographs by Rona MacDonald.